Strong rise in brownfield development

Almost three quarters of new homes in England are now built on brownfield land, following a recent rise in land recycling, a countryside charity has said.

While back in 2000, 63% of new English homes were built on brownfield land, the number has now risen to 74%, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) charity said in its new publication, How much land is your council wasting?.

Watford near London comes top of the land recycling table with an unbeatable 100% of all homes built on brownfield land, according to the publication, which draws on latest Government figures. London itself was excluded from the table, as the capital’s high land prices mean exceptionally high land recycling rates.

CPRE put the overall improvement down to the Government’s “brownfield first” strategy introduced in 2000 – a driver which it says could be lost if proposed changes in planning guidance come through. The charity fears that the proposed Planning Policy Statement 3, due later this year, will weaken the brownfield first approach.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, echoed the charity’s concerns: “The government’s proposed planning policy on housing is deeply worrying because it could reduce the priority previously given to the use of brownfield land for building new homes.

“The proposals could lead to developers being able to cherry pick Greenfield sites for building new homes from the five year supply of land that councils would be obliged to identify as land that could be developed.”

The overall improvement has helped preserve swathes of the countryside, said Henry Oliver, CPRE’s head of planning and local government: “Together, these improvements in land recycling and density have saved thousands of acres of countryside from being built on each year – even though the number of new homes being built has been growing.”

In 2000, England saw the construction of 135,000 new homes, rising to 159,000 in 2005, but the amount of greenfield land lost in the process was less by 1,017 hectares.

Despite the improvements, many local councils are still not achieving the 60% brownfield development target set by the Government. Bottom of the list is Corby council, which builds most – 91% – of its new homes on Greenfield land.

The Local Government Association blamed lack of infrastructure funds: “There are large areas of brownfield land which could be developed now but new houses can’t be built unless there is money to pay for supporting infrastructure like roads, schools, flood defences and community facilities,” chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said.

Goska Romanowicz

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